Coming Full Circle to Victory

A year ago, I had the great privilege of working alongside Rebecca Parrish, doing location sound recording for Jen Gilomen, one of the filmmakers behind Working Films documentary Deep Down when they brought their film’s protagonist Beverly May to Chicago. They were here for an ITVS Community Cinema Screening, but first stopped by Little Village to meet the members of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) to learn about their fight against several toxic industries, including two huge coal power plants that were poisoning the air and the people in those neighborhoods.

LVEJO member Ian took us on a walking tour of his neighborhood, where we got to stand right outside the towering gates of the Fisk plant in Pilsen. The change in the quality of air I was breathing was immediately noticeable. There was no running away from the foul smell of chemicals in the air. As I crinkled my nose and started to fear the effect breathing the air would have on my brain that day, I wondered how the City of Chicago could allow such a toxic-emitting plant to carry on running right where people’s homes are. A 2010 study showed that pollution from the Fisk and Crawford plants alone leads to 42 premature deaths, 66 heart attacks and 720 asthma attacks each year!

Fast forward to today, I found myself back in Pilsen, where the smoke stack of the Fisk plant towered over me once again. A large crowd had gathered in the park across the street carrying signs and chanting continuously. This time, the looks on the faces of Pilsen residents were ones of sheer joy and celebration. Just yesterday, news broke that both coal plants in Chicago will soon shut down.
Plant Closing Celebration

That’s when Greenpeace, one of the organizations that’s been fighting for this for years, called me to help document this historic victory.

Greenpeace blog

Visit their blog to read their recap of the day and watch a clip of Lelia Mendez, a member of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), giving an emotionally-charged speech.

(Thank you Mitch, for passing this opportunity along. It was so great to come full circle.)

Join me on Blog Action Day

A week from today, the world will unite to shine a spotlight on the very essence of life – Water.

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day. Its aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all.

Will you join me on Oct 15th?

People protect what they love…

“We can’t protect what we don’t yet understand” – Jacques Cousteau

That was my big takeaway from watching Jean-Michel Cousteau’s presentation The Other 70%: Understanding the Earth’s Underwater Ecosystems on this 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. He spoke to a packed auditorium at Northwestern’s Pick Staiger Hall, sharing his life passion for ocean exploration and conservation.

He told the story of how he was first “thrown overboard” by his father at age 7, and how he now has his two children working alongside him to inspire and educate people around the world about the need to maintain a sustainable ocean.

Sharing multiple clips from his PBS/KQED series “Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures“, he was able to illustrate with vivid imagery the beauty that lies in the depths. Through watching them, I understood how our actions were seriously endangering the existence of our wild turtles, sharks, birds and whales. I also learned about Jean-Michel’s role in influencing President Bush’s 2006 decision to designate the North Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument to preserve 138,000 square miles of ocean.

But the clip that truly resonated with me was one which depicted 5 people across a spectrum of ages and diets getting tested for the presence of toxic substances in their bodies. The cameras were rolling as each person in the study was told the test results for the first time. The emotion captured on their faces was incredibly moving. You could totally see the shocking realization of how great an impact our environment and diet can have on our health. After the initial tears, came the renewed determination to protect and prevent others from suffering the same consequences.

And that, to me, was a step in the right direction following a higher level on understanding. Jacques was right. We can’t protect what we don’t yet understand. I’ve seen this ring true in my life too. The conscious lifestyle choices I make today are the result of me learning and gaining more knowledge about environmental and sustainable food issues. Knowledge is power, indeed.

Happy 40th Earth Day. :)

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Fighting poverty and pollution with one solution.

Two huge challenges facing us today are the ecological crisis we’re in and the social crisis of the widening gap between the rich and poor.

Van Jones of Green for All (and former Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality ) suggests in the short video below that the solution to tackle both poverty and pollution is to build a green economy. With the increase in demand for green technology across the world, comes the increase in demand for labor. A lot of work needs to be done in retrofitting homes, and in harnessing alternative energy sources. A lot of people need work. Bring together the two and you get green collar jobs.

He also brings up the issue that our governments are currently partners to the polluters, war-mongers and incarcerators. They need to start partnering up with the problem solvers in the world.


Is the solution that simple? What tangible steps can we take to get there?

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